André Previn (1929-2019) - multi-talented pianist, conductor and composer

Andre Previn - Alone: Ballads for Piano - album cover Born in Berlin in 1929 with the name Andreas Ludwig Priwin, Andre Previn's Jewish family emigrated to America in 1939 where the musician became an American citizen and proceeded to have many different careers. His initial prominence on the musical scene was firstly as a pianist playing both jazz and classical, and he was on first-name terms with many film stars, composers and conductors. Previn himself also gained significant respect as a conductor interpreting many classics and was principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra for a number of years. An example of his classical interpretations as a conductor is this recording of Shostakovich Symphonies 4 & 5, and he has also recorded the film music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. As yet a third string on his bow, Previn also contributed to stage and film music in the capacity of composer, conductor, music supervisor or music director. As musical director he oversaw the production of a number of leading musicals including Gigi, Porgy and Bess, Kismet, My Fair Lady and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Paint Your Wagon - original film soundtrack CD cover In the composer role, he scored several films including "Elmer Gantry" and "Kiss me Kate". For the film version of "Paint Your Wagon" he contributed a number of songs (e.g. Gold Fever, A Million Miles away behind the Door, The Gospel of No Name City, Best Things, The First Thing you Know) to the well-known ones by Frederick Loewe (I'm on my Way, I Still See Eliza, Wand'rin' Star, I Talk to the Trees, They Call the Wind Maria, There's a Coach Comin' In, Hand me Down that Can o' Beans) retained from the stage version of the musical. The lyrics for all the songs (Loewe's and Previn's) came from the pen of Loewe's long-time writing partner Alan Jay Lerner.

Andre Previn: Elmer Gantry - original film soundtrack CD cover On the whole his style from those decades tends to be fairly light and lyrical, and clearly influenced by his background in both the classical and jazz worlds. More recently Previn worked hard at Tanglewood, famous for its Summer School and Festiva, though without a doubt his greatest claim to fame is appearing as "Andy Preview" on the Morecambe and Wise show where he learned the proper way to play the Grieg Piano Concerto before ending up as a bus conductor. Here is the youtube video of that classic event, and some reminiscences of the maestro's appearances on that show.

Anne-Sophie Mutter & Andre Previn: Violin Concerto - album CD cover In later years Previn married and then divorced the virtuoso violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter (his fifth wife) and has written a violin concerto for her called "Sophie" and other works inspired by her influence. Now 80 years old and walking with a cane, Previn is still an active composer and conducts the occasional concert. His operas have included adaptations of "A Streetcar Names Desire" and most recently "Brief Encounter", and he has written concertos for for well-known soloists and song cycles for well-known opera singers. A TV Documentary shown on BBC4 in 2011 called "The Kindness of Strangers" looked at his career as a composer and musician, and followed Previn for 12 months in preparation for the world premiere of "A Streetcar Named Desire" in San Francisco with the San Francisco Opera during their 1998-99 season.

Here is an excerpt from a fascinating televised discussion between Andre Previn, Miklos Rozsa and John Williams. In the YouTube video they discuss film music, and composers such as Max Steiner and Bernard Herrmann.

We regret to report the death of André Previn at the age of 89.

Films by Andre Previn:

    Andre Previn: Irma la Douce - original film soundtrack CD cover
  • Border Incident - musical director and composer
  • Challenge to Lassie
  • Tension
  • The Outriders
  • Three Little Words - musical director and composer
  • Dial 1119
  • Kim
  • Cause for Alarm!
  • The Girl Who Had Everything
  • Small Town Girl - musical director and composer
  • Kiss Me Kate - musical director and addition composer for the musical by Cole Porter
  • Kismet - film soundtrack CD cover
  • Bad Day at Black Rock
  • It's Always Fair Weather - composer and conductor, Previn also wrote the music for most of the songs by Betty Comden and Adolph Green
  • Kismet - additional composer, conductor and music supervisor for the musical by Robert Wright and George Forrest, adapting various classical works by the composer Alexander Borodin
  • The Catered Affair
  • The Fastest Gun Alive
  • Hot Summer Night
  • Designing Woman
  • Silk Stockings - conductor and music supervisor on this Cole Porter musical with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse
  • House of Numbers
  • Gigi - composer, conductor, music supervisor with the songs by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner
  • Porgy and Bess - conductor, music supervisor and music adaptation for this film based on the opera by George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin
  • The Subterraneans - there's a lot of jazz in the score and Previn appears on screen with "The Andre Previn Trio"
  • Elmer Gantry - sometimes complex in style and sometimes lighter Americana
  • Andre Previn: Valley of the Dolls - film soundtrack CD cover
  • All in a Night's Work
  • One, Two, Three - conductor, composer and music adaptation
  • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  • Long Day's Journey Into Night
  • Two for the Seesaw - light romantic lyrical jazz on trumpet and sax
  • Irma la Douce - jazzy in style with French accordian sounds
  • Dead Ringer - featuring a dark harpsichord in this Bette Davis movie
  • My Fair Lady - conductor, composer (incidental music) and music supervisor, with the well-known songs by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner
  • Kiss Me, Stupid
  • The Fortune Cookie - using a jazz idiom again
  • The Swinger - title song
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie - musical director, music by Elmer Bernstein
  • Valley of the dolls - Andre Previn co-wrote some of the songs with his then wife Dory Previn
  • Paint your Wagon - Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner wrote the songs for the stage musical, but some songs were dropped and new ones added for the film musical, the new songs being by Andre Previn and Alan Jay Lerner
  • The Music Lovers - conductor for various classical works on the soundtrack
  • Jesus Christ Superstar - conductor for Andrew Lloyd Webber's music
  • Rollerball - music supervisor for the film featuring Bach's Toccata and Fugue in Dm among other classical works, and some of Previn's own music
  • The Elephant Man - the score was composed and conducted by John Morris but Previn conducted Barber's "Adagio for Strings" used on the soundtrack

TV music by Andre Previn:

Previn has appeared many times on television shows as a conductor, pianist or simply as a celebrity. Occasionally he presented programmes such as on the documentary series "The Lively Arts", he has acted as musical director for the "Academy Awards", and of course he conducted orchestras at the BBC Proms and other televised concerts. In addition to all these appearances he occasionally wrote music for television shows:

  • Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill - TV mini-series with a waltz theme
  • BBC2 Playhouse - the episode "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour", a phrase which helps music students remember the lines of the treble clef

Andre Previn - recommendations

There are of course many albums featuring Andre Previn in come capacity. Here is a selection: